Virgin Atlantic has said it will cut 80% of flights per day and asked staff to take eight weeks unpaid leave as demand for travel plummets amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The company said it plans to ground 75% of its fleet by 26 March and a further 10% by April. It has permanently axed the London Heathrow-Newark route with immediate effect and will prioritise ‘core routes based on customer demand’.
The airline said in a statement: ‘This change amounts (to an) approximately 80% reduction in flights per day by 26 March. As a direct consequence we will be parking approximately 75% of our fleet by 26 March and at points in April will go up to 85%.
‘Owing to restrictions to international travel, the airline is reducing services to focus on core routes, depending on customer demand. This will be subject to constant review as the situation evolves.’
The company said they were taking the drastic measures to ‘ensure cash is preserved, costs are controlled and the future of the airline is safeguarded’.
They said asking staff to take the two months unpaid leave, the cost of which will be spread over six months salary, is the only way they can reduce outgoings without making job losses.
The move has the support of unions BALPA and UNITE, according to the statement.
Virgin has already asked for state aid in an effort to keep the business alive after being hit hard by travel bans and cancelled trips hit it hard. Peter Norris, the chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways’ majority shareholder, Virgin Group has written to Boris Johnson asking for a £7.5 billion package to help the airline industry cope with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis.
This is a breaking news story. More to follow
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